Daily Express

Kelly’s Eye


HAVE you ever had what you believed was a vivid memory suddenly cast into doubt? I’ve just completed reading the third and final volume of Charles Moore’s Authorized Biography of Margaret Thatcher, which includes the episode of Sir Geoffrey Howe’s resignatio­n speech in November 1990. It triggered the leadership contest that brought down the then Prime Minister later that month, and is a historical moment about which I can say “I was there”, as a newspaper political correspond­ent sitting in the press gallery above the Speaker’s Chair.

Moore writes: “Michael Heseltine, by his account ‘sat just behind him’ [Howe], though this is not visible in the parliament­ary film of the speech.”

Well, no he wouldn’t be, I thought, because my abiding image of that extraordin­ary scene was of Howe unequivoca­lly directing his closing line – “The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long”

– to the back of Heseltine’s head two rows in front of him.

So I looked up footage of the speech online – as Moore correctly points out: “it was the first really important parliament­ary speech to have been made since the television cameras had been introduced into the Commons the previous autumn” – and sure enough there was Heseltine where I’d remembered him, a few places along from the familiar glowering bulk of the late Sir Edward Heath at the end of the same row.

The following morning Heseltine announced his candidacy, but ultimately lost out in his leadership bid to someone who, despite (or perhaps, because of) his nice guy image, was far more sinuously calculatin­g: John Major.

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